School was in session Wednesday at Myrtle Beach High School, both in the classroom and on the basketball court.
With Myrtle Beach students moving in and out of the gym in waves as the class bell rang, the Myrtle Beach girls fell 51-33 to the King’s Fork (Va.) Bulldogs in a consolation game of the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational. The tournament’s two consolation games for the day were played at the high school while the championship bracket was played at Myrtle Beach Convention Center in order to complete the tournament’s high school action before the night’s two collegiate games.
Both Myrtle Beach and King’s Fork took several lessons from the game.
“These teams in the [CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational], they are great teams. So it just shows you where your team is at against good teams,” said second-year Myrtle Beach coach Jennifer Dennison, whose squad lost its tournament opener 63-36 to St. Joseph Central (W.Va.) on Tuesday night. “Hopefully by January when your region starts, you can be trying to get on the same level.”
Myrtle Beach (3-4) jumped to a 4-0 lead before the Bulldogs reeled off 13 consecutive points in building a 16-5 advantage behind six points from freshman guard Cydney Nichols. However, the Seahawks clawed back to within a point at 17-16 on freshman Mya Pressley’s layup with five minutes left in the first half. That was as close as Myrtle Beach would get the rest of the way as King’s Fork took a 27-17 lead into halftime, building it to 20 in the final two minutes of the game.
“At this point and on this level of basketball, what we were trying to tell [the players] is you have to play with some heart. We can’t teach heart,” Dennison said. “You have to have heart and just give it all you have got. It doesn’t matter if you are in foul trouble, just play basketball and give it all you got. As long as you play 100 percent, there is nothing else a coach can ask for.”
Myrtle Beach’s biggest downfall was its inability to capitalize on second-chance opportunities. Despite pulling down 19 offensive rebounds, the Seahawks shot just 9-for-51 from the field including 0-for-11 from three-point range.
“We are having problems learning how to finish,” Dennison said. “When you start three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior, it is going to take time. The point guard that we have, this is just her third game. [We] still don’t know how to play with her, looking for her no-look passes.”
That new point guard is Keocia Walker, a transfer from Stephens County High School in Toccoa, Ga. On Wednesday, the 5-foot sophomore was saddled with nine of Myrtle Beach’s 20 turnovers, but several of those were on-target passes that open teammates were unprepared for or unable to handle. Walker finished with four points, three rebounds and two assists. Pressley was the only Seahawk to score in double figures with 10 points to go with five rebounds while freshman Nia Sumpter had nine points and eight boards.
King’s Fork, out of Suffolk, Va., finished as the runner-up in this event last year, but dropped its opener this year 54-31 to Orangeburg-Wilkinson on Tuesday night. It left the Bulldogs in a surprising position.
“I have a lot of kids that weren’t on this team last year, but I did have my three seniors and it was hard,” King’s Fork coach Maurice Fofana said of motivating his players for Wednesday’s consolation game. “They felt like they didn’t have anything to play for this morning when they got up. … It is hard a lot of times when you are expected to do one thing and then you get the hiccups or you are not as good as you thought you were when you got here. It is hard to keep pushing through after losing that first game.”
The Bulldogs rely heavily on Khadedra Croker, a Virginia Tech signee who Fofana describes as “the best post in our state.” The 6-foot-3 senior had her way in the paint Wednesday, scoring a game-high 18 points to go with 17 rebounds and four blocks. It was enough to help the Bulldogs (6-1) pull away for the win despite shooting 19-of-50 from the field including 0-for-7 from 3 and turning the ball over 22 times. Nichols scored 12 and was the only other Bulldog to score in double figures.
“With young kids – I have about four freshmen and three sophomores – they have the thing where they are good because ‘I am on varsity,’ ” Fofana said. “This is just a reality check for them that what you did last year on junior varsity will not carry over to this year for the varsity program. They will be good, but they are not there yet.”
The lessons learned by Myrtle Beach in this tournament are ones Dennison hopes benefit the squad for the remainder of this season and beyond.
“As coaches we learn, and as players they learn,” Dennison said. “My main thing that I am looking at with these teams, they are in great condition. I mean, they are more conditioned than South Carolina players. That is going to be one of my pet peeves next year is conditioning.”
Both teams will have Thursday off and return to action Friday. Myrtle Beach will play Timmonsville at 8:15 a.m. while King’s Fork will play Seton-LaSalle (Pa.) at 11:45 a.m.
• KING’S FORK (51) – Brittany Alston 5, Cydney Nichols 12, Shanell Pope 5, Jazlyn Dunn 6, Khadedra Crocker 18, Amesha Miller 3, Latonia Thomas 2
• MYRTLE BEACH (33) – Keocia Walker 4, Nia Sumpter 9, Nakia Black 4, Mya Pressley 10, Kiana Adderton 3, Kyerra Adderton 1, Tatyanna Hollins 2
• Halftime: King’s Fork 27-17. 3-point goals: None. Team fouls: King’s Fork 21, Myrtle Beach 15. Fouled out: Nichols (King’s Fork). Technical fouls: None.
• Records: King’s Fork 6-1, Myrtle Beach 3-4